Dream

My mom was a dreamer.

217035_5572776373_9441_n

An incredible, crazy fun dreamer.

 

She  loved to sew.

She had plans to be one of the best children’s fashion designers in the nation.

398392_10150501424126374_1472774807_n
Her clothing line made Earnshawns Magazine and was featured in a trade show in 2006.

She came up with ideas that were way before her time and I am now seeing some of the designs she created on the clothing racks of various stores.

 

She was so talented.

 

She would create outfits out of unique patterns and colors and fabrics.

She went on this African kick once, and created jumpers, jackets and parachute pants out of Kente cloth, a fabric filled with vibrant colors and patterns from Africa.

 

 

 

My sister and I were her guinea pigs. Everything she made, we wore everywhere. The vibrant colors and patterns of Africa screamed loudly on my fair olive skin.

 

Third graders can be real jerks. I got called Kunta Kente from Roots. I begged my mom to buy  clothing from the Gap.

 

She didn’t stop. She created more clothing, more designs, more dreams.

 

Her dreaming landed her a clothing contract with JC Penny’s. I don’t exactly remember the names of her clothing line, but it flourished in the stores. She couldn’t afford to hire someone to manufacture all the merchandise for her, so she spent all her time sewing hundreds of pieces of clothing.

 

She’d break to feed us, help us get ready for school, complete homework and get ready to bed.

 

We’d often fall asleep to the sounds of her sewing machine whirring in the background, the faint light of her sewing machine peaking under our bedroom door.

This went on for a year. She got more contracts, more stores, more sewing.

 

More dreaming.

 

Then dreaming had to turn into surviving.

 

She was a single mother, with two very rambunctious, adventurous little girls. Sewing for stores in Georgia was going okay, but it was not enough money to take care of her family. She would have to leave Georgia and go to LA or New York to pursue her dream.

 

My mom was very focused on our education and feared we would not get the proper education we needed if we attended school in a big city and weren’t in a wealthy area. She had us living in an upperclass area of Marietta that she could barely afford, just so we could have access to better schools.

 

She did not want her dream to distort our future.

 

She picked up another desk job to make ends meet.

Soon the desk job and the struggle to raise two girls on a single salary took over the dream.

 

The dream became a hobby.

Then it faded into the background as eviction notices, overdue bills, and my cancer diagnosis loomed overhead.

 

My mother set aside her dream for us.

 

Occasionally she’d pick the sewing back up again and previous opportunities would arise and she’d pursue them. She’d get close, so close, but then the cares of the world would take over and the dream would be set aside again.

 

This pattern would happen over and over again, until she herself was diagnosed with cancer and died.

 

Watching my mom struggle with her dream made me afraid to pursue my own.

Yet, she always encouraged me.

“ You’re a writer, Sweetie, it’s what you’re meant to be. Don’t listen to what anyone says to discourage you; do what you love. God will always provide.”

 

 

So I tried to become a dreamer, too.

21765423_10108582509369321_1431832628755214652_o

I created bucket lists.

I planned to travel the world.

I hoped for a family of my own some day.

I wanted to become a writer.

 

My writing dream followed me everywhere.

 

I too, put my dream on the back-burner. I pursued Recreation Therapy, Rehab Counseling, and then Recreation Therapy again. I now have a job I love.

 

But writing…

It won’t leave.

God tells me that my writing is a gift.

But sometimes, I am afraid to use it.

 

God tells me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed. For the Lord thy God will be with you, wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9

 

This is my go-to verse when I am afraid.

 

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of success.

Afraid to dream.

 

God then tells me to write more. That if I do write for Him, He will bless it and bring success.

 

My only requirement is to trust Him and not be afraid to dream.

 

So I started to pursue my dream; I applied to Daughter of Delight last year to write devotionals and I got picked.

I was elated!

I could final put some time into pursuing my dream.

When it ended I looked for more work. I got a lot of rejections.

And writers block hit hard.

I got discouraged.

I stopped dreaming.

Stopped writing.

But God persisted.

“You’re a writer, Sweetpea. It’s what I called you to do. You must focus on your writing more.”

He then gave me a BIG promise along with that.

I got scared. I resisted a little.

But then I decided – YOLO.

 

So now I am dreaming again.

And it’s scary.

But it is starting to pay off.

 

To start my dream, I reached out to a few online ministries and I am now helping them out with their stories.

They are small roles, and not exactly writing, but I love it.

 

And on March 14th, I’ll have my first article published through Joy of It.

And there are more along the way.

It’s exciting.

It makes me want to keep dreaming.

Keep pursuing.

Keep writing.

essay-writing

Dream always.

No matter how much it scares you.

No matter how many bumps in the road.

Or rejections you get.

Or doubts you have.

Go for it.

God will bless it.

Just dream.

Advertisements

Longevity

 

I have to say, 2017 was one of the hardest, yet best years of my life. My relationship with God and my friends and family deepened so much. So much joy and love came out of such a hard time. And I got to check one of my bucket list items off my list- Italy.

Around this time last year, I embarked on an unwanted adventure- stage 4 thyroid cancer. I remember the devastation I felt getting that initial diagnosis. Later I was told that this adventure was going to be brief; below is the conclusion to that unwanted adventure. To all of you who saddled up and joined me on this adventure: thank you. You mean the world to me.

Enjoy.

On January 8th,  I received an email with the results of my CT scan. Three of my tumors had grown. The cancer treatment I received in July did not work. I was devastated. This was not the answer I was expecting. I was supposed to be healed.

I immediately called the my doctor’s office for an appointment to set up a plan of attack. I left messages with no response on their end. I was frustrated, frightened and saddened by the aspect of losing my hair, chemo and my PTO being wasted on medical treatments instead of fun adventures.

I shared my email results with my closest friends and coworkers who immediately prayed for me. One of my coworkers who was outraged that I found out via email told her mother, who was equally outraged, and a nurse at CCare, a cancer treatment center here in town.  My coworker connected me with her mother who got me an appointment with one of the best oncologists at their center. On January 23rd, I took my squad, Lauren, Donna, Tammy Jo and my Uncle Johnny (who drove up from LA for the day just to be at my appointment) and we met Dr. Rao.

Dr. Rao went over my scans and medical information and gave me some of the best news of my life: there was no need for further treatment at this time. I was overjoyed: no chemo, no hair loss, no sickness…I would get to keep my PTO. I was thrilled.

After the good news, came what my boss calls “good bad news”: my tumors were not going to go away and there was no treatment that would rid me of them completely. There was no need to treat me now, as I wasn’t symptomatic. There would come at time where I would be and when that time came, there were treatment options that would help shrink the tumors and slow their growth, but again not rid me of them completely.  They would prolong my life, but decrease my quality of life. His goal was for me to have the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.

I took all this new information in and asked: ” So, will this cancer eventually take me out?”

Dr. Rao sighed and said: Yes, eventually you will die of Thyroid cancer.

“How long do I have?”

“15 to 20 years”

I was stunned. I did the math; I’d be 50-55 years old when I died. I want to get married, have a family of my own…15 to 20 years would definitely affect that. I wouldn’t be able to grown old with my friends. I may spend my last days sick and suffering. I sat in stunned silence, my mind racing with the thought of only 20 years left.

Dr. Rao continued on.

“The goal is to keep your TSH levels as low as possible. This will slow the tumor growth. They are very small now, not even a centimeter, so I am not too concerned. In 3 to 4 years they might be an inch. Right now the plan is to watch the tumors. When they start to become a problem, we’ll talk treatment options. I’m going to set you up with an new endocrinologist to monitor your thyroid levels…”

I don’t remember much else from that appointment. My friends embraced me once the doctor left. They prayed for me. I cried. I counted my years. 20 years. It was long but not long. I couldn’t believe this was it and there were no other treatment options. I’d have to live with it until it took my life. I was numb.

But…I also had no peace. The words of the doctor didn’t sit right with me. I respected him and trusted him but the dying of thyroid cancer part- it didn’t fit.  Having only 20 years left didn’t sit right with me. Some would say it’s denial- but I felt like his word was wrong and that this would not be my ending.

God then whispered: You are going to have a long and happy life.

Me: “I know God; 20 years is a long time. It could have been 6 months left”

God: No Alexis, not only 20 years. You are going to die an old woman. You are going to be married and have children. You’re going to have grandchildren.  You are going to live a long and happy life.”

At the time, I was too stunned to hear or believe God’s words. I delivered the news to my family, friends and coworkers. They were shocked, but encouraging and supportive. Many of them were in disbelief of the news too, and almost all have stated: God is in control and has the ultimate say in all things.

God whispered to me daily to trust Him and His plan. To trust His word. The week after I got the news, I had to fight hard not to give into despair and give up. The enemy was so loud;  reminding me daily of my shortened life and broken dreams. It is so easy to listen to that voice and believe it when you look at reality: cancer, stage four, no cure.  But when you look at things through faith and trusting God- reality means nothing.

Unknown

He spoke to me again at church through my pastor- “The word of man is meaningless; you are going to live a long and happy life.”

And finally, I had peace.

Side note: I am learning to trust what God tells me and not having to rely on the words and prayers of others.  Not that those things aren’t good, but I need to realize I can hear Him clearly and I have to start trusting that I hear Him correctly. Thankfully, God is patient and will give me multiple confirmations of things He’s told me through His word or through others.  It bothers me that it took me hearing it from my pastor to really believe what God was telling me. I am working on that.

Since that meeting with my oncologist, I’ve met my new endocrinologist who confirmed that word from God: the cancer will be controlled by my medication. If I take the right dose of thyroid hormone and my TSH levels are at zero, then the hormone will act like chemo and keep my tumors from growing. She let me know that she has patients who are in their 70’s and 80’s with these tumors and still doing well. They have some symptoms but they are well managed. She didn’t want me to worry about dying from this; she was certain that I would have a long life.

Again, God sweetly confirmed his word.

So now, I am clinging to that word. Once the enemy realized that I fully believed God about my cancer and wasn’t afraid of the what the doctors told me- he was silenced. He may try to bug me in other ways, but my cancer- he doesn’t bring it up. He knows he can’t hurt or discourage me with it. And that my friends, is sweet victory!

So that’s the end of my cancer story for now. I get to live with it, but not be overcome by it.  I look forward to a year filled with new babies, new marriages, new travel adventures and plenty of PTO.

 

Italy

So I am back from Italy. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

I saw so many awesome things; met a TON of cool people and the food…OMG the food.

20170911_140721

And, the best part…this trip was a fast and a major test on trust.

Let me explain.

Oh, FYI, I am going to bounce around in this quite a bit. Sorry, not sorry. But bear with me…

Every September my church does a fast.  We fast for different things: our promises, salvation for the lost, our nation, etc.  We were to pick a pleasure and a food.  So I ask God, “Okay, it’s September. What am I fasting this time? Is it sweets? A meal? Caffeine? Social media? Routine? (This one is tough for me; I am a serious lover of my routines)”.  As I am going through all of the things I could possibly fast, God interrupts me:

God: Italy is your fast.

Me: Are you sure?  Because this sure feels like cheating…

God: Trust me; this is your fast.

Me: You mean I can eat all the pizza, pasta and gelato I want?

God: I’d like you to practice some restraint and not go nuts, but yes you may eat those things.

Me: SWEET!!! Best. Fast. Ever!!!!!

So this trip is a fast. Great! I honestly thought :”Oh man I really lucked out this September; I get to explore a country on my own, eat awesome food and meet new people. Not really giving anything up at all…

Or so I thought.

God took away all comforts of the familiar, the known and the routine (which I LOVE) for me on this trip. It was just Him and I. I haven’t had time like that with God since I moved away for college when I was 18.  When I landed in Rome, there was no one to pick me up, no one to guide me as to where to go. I had to depend on God, for everything.

20170915_113055

 

And for that reason, I could have NO FEAR.

Before this trip happened, God did a TON of uprooting this year. Tons. Anything, anyone fear related had to go. It didn’t matter if it was close family or friends…it was gone. And it hurt. I couldn’t understand why it had to be that way and so sudden. I wanted to fix things, try to repair the broken things and confront the fears but God said to yield..and it was gone. Originally I thought it was because of the cancer diagnoses, and I needed solid people and things around me but I was wrong. It was for this trip. I could have no fear doing this trip. None.

20170915_114840

You see, when I am afraid, I can’t hear. I can’t hear God, any voice of reason or logic.  I can’t see.  All I hear are voices of doubt and panic and they are louder than my Father’s voice. Everything within me goes into self protect mode, I push God out of the way and I lean on my own strength. It’s dangerous enough doing that here at home, but even MORE dangerous operating like that in a foreign land. So I couldn’t have fear influencing me in any area of my life, no matter who it came from or where. It had to go.

20170916_180636

The only time I felt fear on this trip was on the plane to Rome. When you are flying, American Airlines has this screen where you can pull up a map to see how close you are to your destination. I usually love looking at that little map, but when I saw that my plane was closer to France than New York, I slightly panicked.

airplane

” Oh snap! America is really far away!”

In that moment I wanted to reach out my arms and grasp for the tiny bit of America I could see left on that map. It finally felt real to me that I would be on my own, just me and whatever belongings I had in my suitcase and back pack for TWO WEEKS. The thought started to form in my head:

“I am al…”

God: “You are not alone.

 

So when I land in Rome, it is pouring. When it storms in Rome, it storms. The thunder is literally shaking the train station, there are people everywhere, everything is in Italian and I am thinking…”What on earth have I gotten myself into?”

20170919_184049

My first stop in Rome was to be  ICF Rome, a Christian church that was 45 minutes from the train station if I walked. Since it was storming like crazy, I had to use the bus. My original plan was to get to their 9:45 service for bible study, stay for the 11am church service, grab lunch then head back to the train station for my train to Padova at 4pm.

Yeah, that plan didn’t happen.

It took a while for me to figure out how to get euros, then how to get bus tickets, then how to figure out which bus to take and then find where the buses were to get to the actual church. By the time I got on a bus, 9:45 had come and gone, but hey! I found the correct bus.

One of the biggest differences between Italy and America is signage. Street signs aren’t really a thing over there. Sometimes a street name is carved into a building, or written on a wall. So when you are going somewhere you REALLY have to know where you are going and what you are looking for or else you get lost, fast.

20170911_165706

I did not want to get lost, because I REALLY wanted to make the church service because: A) it was storming like crazy outside and I really didn’t want to sight see in this weather. B) The church would be dry and warm unlike me, who was now soaking wet with a very battered umbrella. C) I really wanted to go to church because this was the whole reason for this stop and I didn’t want to wait in the train station until 4pm so I was pretty determined to make church happen.

So as I am on the bus contemplating all this and trying to figure out the bus stop from the directions I was given, God speaks up:

God:  “You should ask for help.”

So I turn around and smile politely at the lady behind me. “Parla inglese?”

She smiles nervously, pinches her fingers together and says “A little” I then try to explain where I am going and what I am trying find and we spend the next five or so minutes trying to communicate. She decides that it would be best to find an English speaker for me. She turns to the lady behind her, asks in Italian if she speaks English and thank God…she does! Even cooler, she’s going to the same church I am going to!  How cool is God?

So I got to church. The service was great, I met really nice people who helped me get back to the train station and I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.

20170917_202209

That’s pretty much how this trip went. God led me along everywhere and provided everything.  He was my pilot. He guided and I followed. When I needed to speak up and ask for help, he provided help through anyone I met. When I needed to follow Him and just learn how to read a map…I learned how to read a map. (I disobeyed  in Verona and tried to do things my own…and ended up with an unwanted shadow for three hours. Lesson learned.)

20170912_152512.jpg

And the best thing: other than that brief moment on the plane…I felt no fear on this trip. None. It was awesome to do this without fear. I knew with everything in me that He would take care of me and I could just lean on Him. It was so freeing, and since I had that peace; I had a blast.

20170920_153040

There are so many more stories to share but this is getting long. But I’ll leave you guys with this: I am  determined to no longer let fear control  my life in any way at all anymore. Fear is stupid  if it is holding you back from what God has called you to do. Heck, even if you don’t believe in God, fear should never be the reason for not doing something you want to do EVER.

Fear is the enemy’s way of stealing your joy and robbing what God has for you. Christian or not, the devil doesn’t discriminate.  He hates all of us, he loves to steal and he uses fear (among other things) to steal from us. And it is so not okay. So if you feel fear and you want to do something, do it afraid. God will be there. And if you mess up (and this is a perfectionist talking) that’s okay, because God restores.

So that was my  fast/trip. It was God’s way to restore in me something I managed to forget along the way: God’s got my back, I can trust him and with Him I have no reason to fear..

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.”

20170922_191843

 

Countdown

I can’t believe that I am a week away from this trip! Craziness. This time next week, I’ll be on my way to Rome. I CAN NOT WAIT.

Earlier this week, I had a little freak out. I started going over everything in my head that could possibly go wrong, and started scaring myself out of this trip. My biggest fear was going alone…the thing I was most excited for, I was now scared of.

God calmed me down and said…

“Alexis, you’re going to be fine. You’re with me. I will place good people in your path. You’re going to have a blast and meet so many wonderful people. This trip will change you for the better. Trust me.”

We had this conversation several times. God is so patient; He was willing to repeat the same thing over and over again to reassure me that  I was safe and not to worry.  Every now and again, the worry will try to pop up, and I remind myself that I am going to be fine and God will be with me.

My other big fear for this trip was planning it. I decided to go the route of planning this whole thing by myself. Initially this was difficult because: I HATE MAKING DECISIONS. IT TAKES ME FOREVER. I must explore every single possible outcome and scenario in my head before finalizing anything. The biggest reason I do this is because I don’t want to make a mistake.

The last few big trips I took were handled by very Type A super organized people. I love them for that gift. I wish I had that gift ( I can tap into it every now and then, but it is very rare). It is nice not to be a decision maker and just follow along. If a mistake was made or something went wrong, I didn’t have to worry about it. I could just conform and follow a new plan. So the fact that I was now the lead decision maker was TERRIFYING.

God sat me down and said:

“There are no wrong answers in this. This is your trip. You get to do whatever you want. If things don’t work out, that’s okay. Be open to mistakes. Be open to things going wrong. You can learn from this and make new plans.”

So  I am still trying to wrap my head around this concept. Mistakes are okay. They help you grow. What’s not okay is not taking action because you are afraid of taking the wrong action. That’s operating in fear and that is NOT OKAY.  So although it took me forever (as in I am still finalizing my last tour/ activity today), I have an itinerary down. I can’t believe I planned this.

I am going to try hit up 9 different cities in 14 days.  These are the main places I will be: Padova, Venice, Verona, Florence, Rome and Naples. I am a bit nuts to try and see so many places, but I can’t wait to do this. Here’s some of the activities and places I will be:

4490__1436331783

Venice: I arrive here on 9/11. I plan to wander around a lot, and take a Gondola rowing class. To ride a gondola in Venice is around 104 bucks for 20 minutes!!! Ridiculous! You can learn how to push your own gondola for the same price, so hey, I figure I do that instead.

Lake_Garda_Italy8

Gardaland/ Lake Garda:  I arrive here on 9/13. I saw pictures of this lake  early on and knew I just had to go. Then, I found out a theme park with a roller coaster that I’ve wanted to ride was located here.  It’s one of my bucket list roller coasters so I had to go. I bought my ticket today.

Embankment-of-The-River-Arno-in-The-Italian-City-of-Pisa

Tuscany: I signed up for a Tuscany in One Day sight seeing tour on 9/16. We’ll get to visit, Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano. There’s a farm house wine tasting tour and country side lunch. I get to climb the Tower of Pisa, which I can’t wait to do. Plus I get to be on a tour with people, so I get a break from myself for a day.

cover_82865a3cd3261a4cc820f64b765d86d4_l

Naples: I am the most excited for this tour! I get into Naples on 9/20 and will be taking a food tour on the back of a Vespa. I saw a video of Vespa rides in Naples several months ago and knew I wanted to go. I originally set out to rent a Vespa and do it on my own. After wise council from God and several friends, I decided to do the tour instead. On the tour, I’ll get to see a chocolate factory, make my own pizza, and try various Neapolitan foods and deserts. I can’t wait.

When I am not doing tours I will be doing a lot of wandering. I can’t wait to do that. I get lost a lot, and I am kind of looking forward to doing that over there. There’s going to be so much to explore. I know I can’t do it all in 14 days, but I plan to make the best of it.

I’ll try to update and post pictures daily if I can. I’ve already promised to check in daily with my coworkers to let them know that I am still alive.  If you want to follow my photos, check out @apeachincali on Instagram. I’ll post a few here as well.

So that’s it. This peach will actually be a peach in Italy next week. So excited!

 

 

 

 

Almost there

In three days, I start my radioactive iodine treatment. Here’s what I’ve been up to medically leading up to this (super abbreviated version):

Tests, appointments, lost a lymph node or two that did NOT have cancer (yay!), more tests, more appointments, stopping medications, starting new ones, going through complete thyroid hormone withdrawals.  Now I am completing a 14 day low iodine diet to deplete the iodine in my system before RAI treatment.

So why the radioactive iodine treatment? They hope all of this will make my body so starved for iodine that when they give me the liquid iodine, the cancer cells  being in starvation mode for iodine will quickly gobble up the radioactive iodine so the radiation can kill all of the cancer that is hanging out in my lungs.  ( Whew, that’s a mouthful).

Side effects: Nausea, (already happening and booo!) fatigue, dry mouth, metal taste in mouth,  possibly destroyed salivary glands if I don’t drink enough fluids, possible (but very low) risk for leukemia.

So before all of this was to go down, I vowed to have the most fun of my life. I asked God for three things: The energy to keep up with everything, the ability to go to Tahoe and the ability to support my track team down at the Angel City Games in LA. God honored all of those requests.

The month of June, I started out in Tahoe at the No Barriers Summit loving life. I got to try adaptive cycling, boxing, archery (a new love of mine), did an abbreviated version of The Amazing Race, and met some amazing people along the way.

18920641_1540688215949810_694173924331367121_n
Team 5 Thunderwomen!

 

The trip was such a blessing. I got to spend my birthday doing the things that I loved. I also got closer to one of my friends, who I am sure had she not been there, the weekend would have not been as great.

18768621_10108035311603031_884793522863851900_o

In the middle of all that: work, friends church, life, repeat. Also going on: growing fatigue, forgetfulness, brain fog, mood swings…all signs that my body was going hypothyroid on me. I vowed not to let it stop me. To keep going. To suck it up and push through.

God whispered: It’s okay to take a little rest. Seriously. It’s okay. A nap once in a while won’t hurt.

Me: I AM IRON MAN BLENDED WITH TREX!!! ARRRRRR!

il_570xN.686771407_thb7

God: “Okay…”

I ended this epic month with a trip down to LA with our track team for the Angel City Games. These kids broke national records, broke barriers, brought home  countless medals and wowed the adaptive track/ field world with their awesomeness.  The coaches worked hard and sacrificed their Saturday mornings to get these kids here and it paid off huge! It was so fun to be with these kids, my friends and watch them do so well for their first time. It was truly an unforgettable weekend and I am glad I got to be a part of it.

19441702_1325366494179473_6880977329732276788_o

God gave me one more final gift, to spend time with one of my closest friends before treatment since I would be unable to interact with her during that time (more on that below). It was such a nice time to relax and be with a friend who has been such a huge support through all of this. What I only intended to be just a few hours, ended up being a whole day. I am so thankful.

When it was all over…the fatigue hit. Hard. Then came the sickness. The constant sickness. I prayed to God to give me the strength to finish out strong. To keep going. To be unstoppable. To be bigger than cancer, my body, my weakness.

God said no.

“God, I am almost there. Just a few more days left. I need more energy.”

“No girl, you need a nap.”

So we argued.

Me: “But I am Wonder Woman.”

God: “I get that, but Wonder Woman sleeps too, ya know? No one will blame you if you need a little time. You are not slacking. You are not taking advantage. You can not overpower what your body needs and right now it needs rest. It’s hard, I know but you need to slow down and rest so you can recover properly.”

So I gave in. The world did not end. People were not hurt. Things did not come crashing down.

The only thing I received was a much needed nap, love and so much grace.

Throughout this whole thing, I’ve received so much grace and love from others. People have come out of the woodwork just to show me how loved I am. I’ve had friends move their lives around to attend my medical appointments, invite me into their homes before and after my surgeries so I could recover. I’ve had coworkers step up to make sure I had what I needed and remove things from my plate so that I would not feel overwhelmed. I’ve had family members drive up just to spend the day with me.  I’ve had friends talk me down off the ledge when I spent too much time on Google and accidentally freaked myself out. I’ve had countless people pray for me, Christian and non Christian.

I went into this feeling that cancer was a curse. That this was the worse possible thing to have happen. That without my mom, I’d fight this alone.

I was so wrong.

I had no idea coming out of this that I would feel like cancer was a blessing. God used this to show me the love and grace of others. That I am not alone. That I am loved. So loved. I didn’t even ask for this, and God provided. I am so glad he did.

Thank you all who’ve been there for me. I can never repay you. Through God, you are the reason I made it this far.  He used you to combat a lie I told myself: I am alone.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

thank-you-1400x800-c-default

So on the 5th of July, I start treatment. For three days, I have to limit my time with people and can be no less than 6 feet away from others. ( To the people who have offered to build me giant bubbles or build giant signs or give me ideas for what to do with my new radioactive powers; you are my favorite).

6pcs-balls-1pcs-air-font-b-pump-b-font-human-inflatables-body-buddy-belly-bumper-bubble.jpg
It would have been so fun to do life in a bubble for three days. Sweaty but fun!

After that, I have to remain up to three feet away from children and women who have children or are pregnant for four more additional days. I can’t work during this time so I get to catch up on sleep, reading, movies, and finish up planning for my Italy trip. Then I go in for another scan on the 11th to see if the treatment is working. I will know for certain September 28th if the cancer is gone. God willing, it will be.

So that’s it. That’s my life up until now. Next update will be my final itinerary for my Italy trip. I can’t believe thats’s like two months away.

Till then, love you all!

 

 

A Peach… in Italy? Yup.

2016 sucked.

Sorry there is no light and happy way to put that. It sucked. Bad. When it left, I felt torn to shreds. Uprooted. Lost. Unsteady. I was so happy to see it go.

As I sat in a coffee shop with one of my friends, trying to smile through the leftover pain of 2016, my friend asked:

“Alexis, what is one thing you’ve always wanted to do? One thing that you’ve always put off because you felt too scared to do it?”

“Italy.” A small bit of the joy and excitement that I’d lost waved over me.

Friend: “Then you’re going to Italy.”

My friend and decided to be accountability partners for big things we were supposed to do this year. She’d check on my Italy process (passport, flight, etc) and I’d check on her prayers for the cities process.

Now, when I promised to do this, in the back of my mind I thought: “There’s no way I’m going to Italy this year. It’s expensive, it’s not practical, it’s extravagant. I don’t NEED to go to Italy. I WANT to go to Italy, but I don’t really need to. It’s not going anywhere.”

venice-italy
Isn’t it beautiful…

In the middle of my talking myself out of going, God spoke up.

God: You should go to Italy.

Me: Um, why? Shouldn’t I be saving money for practical things?

God: I want you to do something for you that you love. You love Italy. You’ve wanted to go since you were 12 years old; you even pretended to be Italian just to feel connected to the country. You were supposed to go after your mother died but didn’t. You’ve put it off for years. You’ve put yourself last for even longer than that, especially last year. I want you to do something for you, just special for you. Get your passport and go to Italy.

Me: Speechless

So I turned one of the large open walls in my kitchen into a giant vision board. I covered it in verses to map out my promises of the year. In the middle of that, I placed a big map of Europe, and highlighted  Italy. I bought a giant calendar of Italian cities. I sat down and worked out a budget for a two week trip. I did my taxes super early and received a NICE tax return; which God made me promise to use for my trip.

payday

Once I knew I had the funds and was 100 % sure I could go, I filled out my passport application and got my passport photos…

Then life happened.

I was thrown back into health issues that I thought were resolved. Weeks earlier I was preparing for going to the passport office and purchasing my plane tickets. Now I was meeting with surgeons to have a section of my lung removed. Possible cancer they said. I’d miss two to three weeks of work as I recovered from the surgery.

God: You’re still going to Italy.

roma
I can’t believe I get to see this.

While I am relaxing at a friends place on medical leave, I finally work up the courage to purchase my tickets. Despite not knowing how long it will take my disability insurance to kick in so that I have income, I select my dates in September. Feeling a bit nauseous and excited at the same time, I click “purchase”. God congratulates me on trusting him and then states:

God: “Now that you’ve purchased your tickets, things are going to happen that are going to make you question what you just did. You’ll feel afraid but I want you to trust me.”

Me: “Not liking that statement, but okay. I trust you.”

I was diagnosed with cancer the next day.

God: You’re still going to Italy.

procida-naples-italy
Naples. So beautiful.

So here I am, with Stage 4 thyroid papillary cancer (very treatable and not terminal) planning a trip to Italy. And totally at peace with the cancer diagnosis, the extra surgeries and treatment. It makes no sense and I can only attribute that to God.  I have asked questions about affording the medical bills this treatment will bring, and God says, “You’re still going to Italy. Trust me.” And I am. And it’s weird. Because usually I am super anxious about this kinda stuff and right now…I’m simply not. I’m just trusting and taking things one day at a time.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been moments of sadness and some anger. At one point, when the darts of the enemy kept coming, I reminded God of the word he had for me: restore.

Me: “God, I don’t feel restored. Honestly, I feel like things are being ripped apart.”

God reminded me that sometimes before something is made new, the old has to be destroyed and yes, it will hurt. He then showed me an image of a forest, trees cut down, ground and stumps blackened by the fire. It looked as if all was lost. Then, He showed me a vibrant green shoot coming out of the ground. Despite the wasteland around it, that shoot was growing vibrantly.

58809268-new-leaves-grown-after-forest-was-burn

“That’s you.” God said.

So I don’t know how much more of the forest God plans on clearing in my life. I know there will be more painful things, but I all I can do is lay down and trust God. I can’t fix it. I can’t control it. I just have to trust that God will take care of me. He’s done amazing so far; the love I’ve received from my church family has been amazing. It’s actually made this whole mess fun because I get to see and experience His love for me through others, and who doesn’t love that? Nothing has been required of me; I just get to receive love. It’s a pretty sweet deal. The only things He’s asked me to do is to love myself, trust and obey Him and plan this trip to Italy.

campo-dei-miracoli-pisa
Pisa. I can’t wait to see Pisa.

So finally, after years of putting it off, this blog will finally be used as it was intended…telling about the solo adventures of this peach in Italy. I’m going September 9th through the 23rd. I start in Rome.

Here are the cities on my “must see” list: Rome (obviously), Pisa, Venice, Naples and Pompeii.  I’ll be there for two weeks, and if I get a little bit of time in each of these cities, I’ll be a happy peach. I’m still working out where to start,whether to go hostel, hotel or Airbnb and how long to stay in each city. Pisa, Pompeii and Venice can be done in a day. Rome is downright overwhelming. But I have time to figure it all out and am tapping into my Type A personality to get some planning done. It’s exciting and exhausting but can’t wait to see what I come up with.

I’ll try to update my travel plans as they get more solid. If you have any tips for cities that I should see feel free to comment. Thanks for reading and even bigger thanks if you decide to keep me in your prayers. This year may be rough, but I am hopeful and looking forward to what’s ahead.

 

Restless

I am supposed to be preparing my lecture for this Saturday. I SUCK at staying on task when I am doing something I rather not do. Don’t get me wrong; it’s exciting (and a little nerve-wracking) to present to a group of my peers…but the prep part and going through the research part of it is so tedious and time consuming. I’m one of those super procrastinators that waits til the last hour to finally get things done. The stress of a near deadline drives me better and I end up putting out good work.

I have to admit, overall I am not good at preparing. I usually dive right for the end result, and let the details fall where they may. (However, I am not like this at work, and am all about the details…I need somehow make this flow over to my non work life.) When I have to prepare for something and wait to see how things turn out, I get sooo restless.

Right now I am restless. I am this squirmy, fidgety, five year old stuck in a 33 year olds body who’s been waiting, and waiting…and waiting for a long time for her promises to come. As I sit and squirm, that little voice creeps in that suggests that I start to offer suggestions or try to make plans that I hope will speed up my wait.  I jump out of my little chair, walk over quietly to my Father and hand him my newest idea, my newest strategy to hurry things along.

He looks at them, considers them quietly then hands it back to me while saying,

“Sweet Pea, that’s a good idea, but I promise you that My way will be better, even if you can’t see it right now. Just sit back, relax and wait. I have everything handled.”

Those words bring instant comfort; I am reminded that everything is better when done in God’s timing, then I sit back down. For a while I am placated by those words and just enjoy not having to worry. Then restlessness returns. I can’t sit still. I fidget. I start to pace. I start thinking about the wait, wondering why things are taking so long, doubt creeps in…

And the cycle restarts.

 

I compose another plan, another strategy and rush it over to my Father. He reaches out his hand, takes it, considers it quietly for a moment and says,

“If I told you to go stand in the Jordan now, could you do it?” ( explanation below.)

“Wait, like now? Right now?”

“Yes, like right now? Could you do it? Do you feel prepared?”

“I think so. Maybe?”

He smiles and takes my hand.

“Restless does not mean ready. You must prepare.  You still have doubts and ” what ifs” about the things you are waiting for. You must get rid of all doubt, all fear, all unbelief and be ready to stand when I tell you to stand. You must be strong, fearless and unwavering. You will have your Jordan moment. I need you to prepare. Abide in me and I will prepare your way.” He pats my shoulder and sends me off with things to read to help me prepare during my wait.”

So I prepare.

So I recently went to Queen Camp and got to learn about Joshua (my FAV!!)  and crossing over the Jordan River. God has placed me back in Joshua for a while, so when I saw that this was our study for the weekend I was super excited.

maxresdefaul1.jpg
80 years old, and wipes out a nation filled with enemies? Coolest guy ever!

Having a Jordan moment is a big deal.  The Jordan represents crossing over from the old to the new. When Moses died, Joshua was responsible for leading millions to the Promise Land. To get over to Canaan and collect their land, they had to cross the Jordan river. The river was over  hundred miles long. When they crossed, it was at flood stage so it could have been almost a mile wide. Not to mention that the river could be about 150 ft deep during flood stage. That’s a lot of river to walk through.

sermon-on-our-way-to-the-promise-land-5-638

These guys could have gotten restless and taken the “easy” way, which could mean just jumping in and trying to swim to the other side. Or make a boat and paddle across. Or  worse…give up and not cross at all. All these things would have been in their own strength and not trusting God.

God calls them to do the “crazy” thing, to step in the river WHILE IT WAS FULL, and then and only then would He stop it so they could cross over. They had to get in, get wet, put their feet in the sticky mud and walk through it.

And even crazier? Those priests stood holding a 600 lb Arc of the Covenant for 29 DAYS.

maxresdefault.jpg

29 DAYS!!!! I thought it was a simple “priest step in, people cross over in a day, river goes back to normal, Yay Caanan!” Nope. Not at all that easy. 29 days, holding 600 lbs so that millions of people could cross over a space of 100 feet. Craziness! Although looking at this scene, along with what I see as just crazy, is also things that are just plain beautiful. They stood for 29 days holding 600 lbs, non stop. What great faith, courage, trust and obedience that took.

Even cooler than that, God gave them the strength to do it. There’s no way they could have done it on their own. God made them do the impossible. God took “crazy” and made it reality. It’s beautiful.

These guys had to be prepared. They had to be so full of trust, love and obedience of the Lord to make this work. They had to be courageous and not let fear or doubt get a hold of them. They had to look to God rather than to their impossible situation. They kept their eyes on Him, and they got to do something incredible. What if they rushed it? What if they doubted God for a second? It would have never happened.

So when you or I feel restless, and waiting on God seems tedious, think back to Joshua and the beautiful thing God did for the Israelites crossing the river. Remember God  is for us, His plans are way better than ours, and it when it comes time to have our Jordan moment, God will be with us.